Champ beats the odds

2012-03-20 00:00

THERE can be life after heart surgery. Plenty of it!

Hayley Smith (17) proved this at the weekend when she triumphed in the junior women’s cross-country race at the RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg.

A year ago the Uvongo teenager had an operation to treat an abnormal heartbeat she had been battling with for about 18 months.

Hayley surprised herself by being back in the saddle only two weeks after the surgery, but only after a long journey that began with mixed feelings of fear and relief.

“It was scary at first to find out that I had a heart problem, but at the same time I was very relieved,” she said.

Hayley had experienced symptoms of light-headedness and lack of energy. She sometimes even fainted after races.

Early last year, when she was selected through Cycling South Africa as a member of the Sport Science Institute’s High Performance Team, her condition was correctly diagnosed, after many failed attempts. She withdrew from the team to undergo treatment.

“She could have lived a normal life without it [operation], but she had to have it for her sport and she wanted to do it, so we supported her,” her proud father, Nicky, who has also been her coach for the past seven year, said. She had been an inspiration to the family.

After making a full recovery, Hayley suffered another setback when she broke her collarbone during her first race.

“This was getting ridiculous,” she said. “But luckily, since then I have been fit.”

She said participating in the World Cup had been one of her major goals. “During the race I felt fantastic. I was comfortable and happy with my ride. I opened up a gap in my first lap and increased that lead up to the last lap.”

She said her love for mountain biking never waned and was the main driving force behind her recovery.

“All I wanted to do was to get better and get back on my bicycle and do what I love most.”

Her father added: “We are so ecstatic with her win. We knew she had a chance. Most important is that she enjoyed her ride.

“She is very dedicated and determined. She knows exactly what she wants and she goes out and gets it.”

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